Excerpt: Monarch: The Life and Reign of Elizabeth II

"Prov. Town Atmos," is how the soundman today remembers the noise, referring to the BBC title of their standard, canned Sound Library tape, used to create the atmosphere of a provincial town. "But it was also a sound of its own, like nothing I'd quite heard before. This was London. Then. At that very particular moment. I shivered when I heard it."

Edwards had the solution to his sound problem. He stationed a microphone outside the window to pick up the wind and the shuffle of the crowds, blending it strongly into the audio track from the queen's microphone. The electronic interference was masked, and the living noise of London gave physical texture, and its whole brooding background meaning, to what she said.

"I admired and respected her," the queen was saying, "for her energy and commitment to others and especially for her devotion to her two boys. This week at Balmoral we have all been trying to help William and Harry come to terms with the devastating loss that they and the rest of us have suffered. No one who knew Diana will ever forget her. Millions of others who never met her, but felt they knew her, will remember her …

"I hope that tomorrow we can all, wherever we are, join in expressing our grief for Diana's loss and her all-too-short life. It is a chance to show to the whole world the British nation united in grief and respect. May those who died rest in peace and may we, each and every one of us, thank God for someone who made many, many people happy."

A snappier and more fluid ending might have been to thank God for someone who had "made us all" so happy. But this was a speech delivered by the woman who had refused to pretend that she was very pleased to be in Kingston. The strength of her words was that they did not flirt with exaggerated or false sentiment. Her reservations were clearly there for those who cared to look for them, along with her sternness and her unwillingness, in Britain's number one acting job, to act.

Elizabeth II had searched her heart — a key word that she had used near the beginning of the speech — and, with the help of her private secretaries, she had set out all the good things that she did feel about her late daughter-in-law. She would be genuinely grieving at the funeral next day, albeit in her own undemonstrative and queenly way. The head of a thousand-year-old monarchy had rallied the troops in traditional style, while also managing, in a contemporary idiom, to tell her people that she could feel their pain.

"She's turned it around!" exclaimed the Sun photographer Arthur Edwards, jovial King Rat of the journalistic royal rat pack, who had taken a break from his duties outside the palace and retired to a pub to watch the broadcast on television. "It brought a lump to my throat. 'Thank God,' I thought. 'She's back in charge.'"

"It was uncanny," remembers Alastair Campbell, who had watched the broadcast in Downing Street. "I was out in the Mall soon afterwards with all the crowds still milling about. Most of them had not heard the broadcast or even known that it had taken place. But the change in atmosphere was palpable. The pressure was being let out."

A contingent of senior police officers were gathered in St. James's ready for the transfer of the princess's coffin to Kensington Palace, where the funeral procession would start next day. Eyes that had been tense and watchful were relaxed. Their men in the crowd were telling them, and they could feel it — the moment of crisis had passed.

Page
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...